Although it was first identified in the Rocky Mountains, Rocky Mountain spotted fever is most commonly found in the southeastern part of the United States. It also occurs in parts of Canada, Mexico, Central America and South America. Rocky Mountain spotted fever is a potentially fatal disease that's usually caused by the bite of a tick infected with rickettsia group bacteria.


Early signs and symptoms are not specific to RMSF (including fever and headache). However, the disease can rapidly progress to a serious and life-threatening illness. See your health care provider if you become ill after having been bitten by a tick or having been in the woods or in areas with high brush where ticks commonly live. Signs and symptoms can include, fever, headache, rash, nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, muscle pain, lack of appetite.


Rash is a common sign in people who are sick with RMSF.  Rash usually develops 2-4 days after fever begins. The look of the rash can vary widely over the course of illness. Some rashes can look like red splotches and some look like pinpoint dots. While almost all patients with RMSF will develop a rash, it often does not appear early in illness, which can make RMSF difficult to diagnose.

Long-term Health Problems

RMSF does not result in chronic or persistent infections. Some patients who recover from severe RMSF may be left with permanent damage, including amputation of arms, legs, fingers, or toes (from damage to blood vessels in these areas); hearing loss; paralysis; or mental disability. Any permanent damage is caused by the acute illness and does not result from a chronic infection.


Your health care provider may order certain blood tests to look for evidence of RMSF. The results of these tests can take weeks. If your health care provider thinks your illness might be RMSF, he or she should recommend antibiotic treatment before test results are available.


Early treatment of Doxycycline is the recommended antibiotic treatment for RMSF in adults and children of all ages.

You need to remove the tick as soon as possible. Call your doctor if you are unable to remove the entire tick from your skin.

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